Coat of Arms and Civic Insignia

Coat of Arms and Civic Insignia

Newcastle upon Tyne’s coat of arms

The coat of arms for the city of Newcastle upon Tyne has been in use since at least the fourteenth century.

The earliest surviving example of the three silver castles on a red shield, dating from about 1400, is in the window on the north side of the Chancel in St. John's Church.

It has three castles, supported by two seahorses. At the top there is a lion holding the golden staff of St. George's pennant. At the bottom is the motto Fortiter Defendit Triumphans, meaning Triumphing by Brave Defence.

Both the supporters and crest were added to the shield by grant of William Flower, Norroy King of Arms, in 1575.

The blazon

The formal description of the coat of arms, known as a blazon, is:

Arms: Gules three Castles triple towered Argent.
Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours a Castle as in the Arms issuant therefrom a demi Lion guardant supporting a Flagstaff Or flying therefrom a forked Pennon of the Arms of Saint George.
Supporters: On either side a Sea Horse proper crined and finned Or.

What the coat of arms means

The castle motif goes back to earliest times. Originally the town took its name from the "New Castle" built by order of Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror, in 1080 and a castle was depicted on the twelfth century common seal.

The supporters, two mythical sea-horses shaded in green with gold manes, fins and tails, are a reminder that Newcastle is a seaport.

The motto, Fortiter Defendit Triumphans (Triumphing by Brave Defence) was adopted during the Civil War, following the stubborn defense of the town against the Scots in 1644.

Civic regalia

Lord Mayor’s Silver Gallery

A permanent display of Newcastle’s civic plate and regalia is housed in the Lord Mayor’s Silver Gallery at the Civic Centre together with some of the gifts made to the City.

Lord Mayor’s Chain

This chain comprises two 18-carat gold plain belcher chain links, each 60 inches in length and looped to form a circle.

Suspended from one chain is a gold medallion having on the upper side the Arms of the City and on the reverse the Royal Arms with the inscription, “Georgious IV Corantus, Julius 19th 1821."

Suspended from the second chain is a gold button with embossed flowers and leaves.

The maker's name is not known, but the chain is believed to have been made in Rome.

Lady Mayoress’ Chain 

This chain consists of an 18-carat gold chain with shelds of blue enamel and alternate Tudor Roses.

There are 16 shields, eight on each side of the pendants and they are cased with gold showing:

  1. A gun
  2. A spade and pick
  3. A ship's wheel
  4. St Nicholas' Church tower
  5. A mace with crossed Swords of State
  6. A sword and scales of justice
  7. Roman faces
  8. An anvil, hammer and pincers.

The centre shield is the arms of Riley Lord.

The chain has the inscription, "Presented to the Corporation of Newcastle upon Tyne by Riley Lord, Esq., Mayor 1895-6 and 1899-1900, for the Mayoress, Mrs Albert Lord, and every future Mayoress. 1st May 1900."

The upper pendant is of the Royal Arms in gold and enamel; hanging from this is a larger pendant of the City Arms also in gold and enamel.

Sheriff’s Chain 

The 15-carat chain consists of fancy gold curb links, with a gold 18-carat pendant badge bearing the City Armorial Ensigns in enamel.

It was given to the City by Alderman and Sheriff William Haswell Stephenson, J.P., in commemoration of the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, 1887 

The Great Mace

The Great Mace, which dates back to 1687, is of silver gilt and is four feet 11 inches long.

The shaft is divided by handsome tracts chased with acanthus foliage into three sections, ornamented with a running pattern of roses and thistles.

The foot-knob has the inscription, "Made for the Corporation of Newcastle upon Tyne anno regni Jacob i secundo tertio annoque domini 1687. Nicholas Cole Esq., Mayor, Thomas Paise Esq., Sheriff.”

On the uppermost section of the shaft are four slender brackets.

The mace head, or bowl, is split up into four sections separated by caryatides and foliage.

The first section contains a rose, the second a thistle, the third a Fleur de Lis and the fourth a harp.

Each of these national emblems is surmounted by a crown and flanked with the letters J.R. (Jacobus Rex).

On the bowl rests an open arch crown surmounted by Orb and Cross.

On the plate beneath this cross the Royal Arms are engraved - also those of France, England, Scotland and Ireland.

The only mark which occurs on each separate piece of the mace is that of the maker, F.T. (Frances Granthorne).

The Great Mace is believed to be the largest post Restoration Mace in the U.K.

Swords of State

The privilege of having a sword borne before the Mayor was conferred upon the town by Richard II, through letters patent dated January 25 1391.

The older of the two swords is a fine example of a state sword of the middle of the fifteenth century.

  • The blade is 34 inches long, without grooves or ridges and has, near the hilt, on both sides, the Solingen or Passau wolf mark.
  • The hilt, which measures 13 inches in length, is that of the original sword and is of steel plate with silver gilt.
  • The pommel is 5 inches long, of lozenge form, with a deep central groove. Both sides are chased with spirited leaf work and the groove with a slightly running scroll.
    At the top of the pommel is a small cap, the result of a repair and through carelessness in putting together the pieces of the hilt.
    The band next to the pommel has been reversed and its supposed loss made good in common base metal.
  • The guard has a central portion formed of three deep grooves chased with trophies, apparently a late sixteenth century restoration, and long flat quillons curved slightly downwards with a sharp curl at the ends. The quillons are chased with a running leaf pattern on either side of the central ridge and have a total length of 11 inches.
  • The grip is covered with modern red velvet bound with gilt wire.

The Scabbard is covered with red velvet edged with gold lace and ornamented with handsome silver gilt lockets of a date circa 1760.

The first locket has in front, under a text, the Royal Arms in use from 1714 to 1801 within the garter, and crowned with crest, supporters and motto. The reverse bears a military trophy.

The second locket has in front an ornate cartouche with the three castles of Newcastle and on the back arabesque scrolls.

The third locket has a ship in full sail on the front and a blank cartouche on the reverse.

The chape has in front the figures of a Triton with a trident, astride a dolphin and on the reverse a blank cartouche.

All the lockets are handsomely chased and wrought in repousse. They are not all hallmarked.

The total length of the sword is four feet two inches and its date appears to be circa 1460.

The newer sword is 4 feet 6inches long and is a good example from the end of the eighteenth century.

It has:

  • a lozenge shaped pommel wrought with a ship and other devices in relief
  • a guard with curved quillions bearing the City Arms, also in relief.

The scabbard is covered with red velvet with handsomely wrought lockets and chape, which like the hilt and the guard, are of silver gilt.

From an almost obliterated inscription on one of the lockets, the sword appears to have been made by one J. Bland, perhaps the James Bland who was made free of the Goldsmith's Company of London in 1791.


At the present time only the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor wear robes.

It was formerly the custom for the Mayor and Aldermen to go to church in scarlet robes on all high festival and thanksgiving days. On fast days and on Holy Innocents Day they wore black gowns.

The Lord Mayor's robe is scarlet. By comparison elsewhere in the country the Lord Mayor's robe is often black with gold embellishments.

The original robe was trimmed with sable, but the robe currently worn is trimmed with synthetic fur.

The Deputy Lord Mayor's scarlet robe is trimmed with black velvet.

The hat is also different - in Newcastle the Lord Mayor wears a black tricorn trimmed with ostrich whilst in other authorities a black cocked hat with gold embellishment on the right is worn.

The Lord Mayor and Sheriff wear a lace jabot at the neck.

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